Check out this month’s staff picks from the Betty’s Books crew!
July Staff Picks!
For this ragtag band of space gays, liberation means beating the patriarchy at its own game. This book is set in a galaxy where princesses are won like prizes in hugely broadcasted jousts. Even though the public loves to rally around the competitions, there are some in the shadows working on its downfall. While being deeply political, the story is also lovely and fun, with great characters and relationships.
In classic Alex fashion, I’ve been following this comic since it was being published exclusively online, and was thrilled to see it getting a physical release after so many years! The book follows Victorian noble Ludovica Bonnaire, whose pampered, cushy life has become so boring that she steals her brother’s identity and takes to the seas in search of romance, adventure, and material to put into a book on her life’s passion: sea sponges. It doesn’t take long for our cross-dressing heroine to realize that a life of daring swashbuckling comes with more danger than she’d bargained for!
I love the art style in this book – each page is jam-packed with detail, and despite the grayscale color palette, everything somehow jumps off the page anyway. The characters are a refreshing change of pace compared to usual Victorian era depictions. They’re relatable and funny in a way that feels both modern and true to the era. With so much time spent on the open sea, it’s a perfect Summer read!
Hidden Systems, a nonfiction, science graphic novel, explains how the most essential systems were developed, how they are implemented in our world today and how they will be used in the future. Does this sound a bit dry? Well it’s NOT! For every utility we use each day, there’s a hidden history–a story of intrigue, drama, humor, and inequity. If you’ve ever wondered how the internet actually works or how we don’t run out of water during a drought, then this is the book for you! If you’ve never wondered that, this book is for you too!
In addition to the intriguing subject matter, this GN really showcases what the comics medium can do with nonfiction. For example, in the second chapter in the internet section, Nott draws maps of where underwater cable was laid for telegraphs and then draws maps of where the telegraph cable was updated to fiber internet cable. Further maps expertly show how the cable lines represent the inequalities of colonialism (spoiler: colonizers have the most cable lines headed in and out). Seeing the routes of these cables literally mapped out, makes the effects of colonialism much more plain and potent than a written argument would be on its own. Another visual feature Nott includes is his own system of symbols in the front of the book to represent electric current, pollution and toxins, etc. Not only is this system effective at conveying information and visually engaging, it also helps form connections between the different sections for Water, Electricity and the Internet.
I recommend this book for curious minds everywhere — ages 13 and up.
I’m a sucker for anything that’s about the process of making movies, especially if it’s about low-budget genre trash of the 70’s. Blood of the Virgin by Sammy Harkham is that and so much more. Seymour is a 27-year-old immigrant film editor who gets the chance of a lifetime to direct his first feature film, based on a screenplay he’s already written. Amidst all that, can he also save his crumbling marriage? Our protagonist would rather focus on his work than his family and the cracks begin to show. This isn’t a plucky Ed Wood style “let’s make a movie” type of tale, it’s a story of compromise, heartache, and the sacrifices that art needs to make to maintain a healthy life.